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ERNIE BARNES (1938-2009)

Ernie Barnes is one of the best known African American artists. He played professional football before devoting himself to art. He gained national and international popularity with his painting "Sugar Shack" which appeared on the television show "Good Times" and a Marvin Gaye album. Today, his ‘mannerist’ painting style has been copied by numerous young Black artists.

Ernest Eugene Barnes was born on July 15, 1938 in Durham, N.C. His early interest in art was stoked by the wealthy attorney for whom his mother worked. On the occasions when the seven-year old Barnes would accompany his mother to work, the employer talked to the youngster about art and museums and introduced him, through books, to the works of the great masters.

Barnes excelled at football in High school, becoming the captain of the school’s varsity football team and receiving several college football scholarship offers. At North Carolina Central University he majored in art, studying under the tutelage of the master Ed Wilson and the noted sculptor William Zorack. His athletic pursuits and artistic pursuits gradually merged for the budding artist as he heeded the advice of Wilson that if he wanted to be an artist, he had to work from his experiences. He never stopped being an artist even as he went on to play football professionally and, after retiring from professional football in 1966, he began to paint professionally.

His reputation as an artist grew in the 1970’s, when he began to paint threatening figures of football players with exaggerated muscles and storm trooper helmets. His reputation was further strengthened by his sensitive depiction of Black life in a touring art exhibition entitled “The Beauty of the Ghetto”.

Norman Lear, the producer of the television series “Good Times”, invited him to be “J.J.’s” ghost artist. He also created the cover for Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” album. In 1984 he was commissioned the Official Artist of the 23rd Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He has received increasing acclaim over the years and is now recognized as a preeminent American figurative painter of his generation.

His work can be found in prestigious private collections such as Ethel Kennedy, Bill and Camille Cosby, Norman Lear, and Harry Belafonte.


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A Walk in Faith by Ernie Barnes Anniversary by Ernie Barnes Come Sunday by Ernie Barnes Determination by Ernie Barnes
A Walk in Faith
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Anniversary
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Come Sunday
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Determination
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Double Dutch by Ernie Barnes Each One Teach One by Ernie Barnes Head Over Heels by Ernie Barnes High Aspiration by Ernie Barnes
Double Dutch
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Each One, Teach One
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Head Over Heels
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High Aspiration
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Homecoming by Ernie Barnes In the Moment by Ernie Barnes Late Night DJ by Ernie Barnes Lift Every Voice by Ernie Barnes
Homecoming
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In the Moment
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Late Night DJ
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Lift Every Voice
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Ninety Nine A'Hunered by Ernie Barnes Parting Ways by Ernie Barnes Pause Cafe,Coffee Break by Ernie Barnes Perseverance by Ernie Barnes
Ninety Nine A'Hunered
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Parting Ways
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Pause Cafe/Coffee Break
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Perseverance
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Ring Around The Rosie by Ernie Barnes Room Ful'A Sistahs by Ernie Barnes Singin' Sistahs by Ernie Barnes Skins and Shirts by Ernie Barnes
Ring Around The Rosie
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Room Ful'A Sistahs
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Singin' Sistahs
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Skins and Shirts
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Solid Rock Congregation by Ernie Barnes Springboard by Ernie Barnes Sugar Shack by Ernie Barnes The Drum Major by Ernie Barnes
Solid Rock Congregation
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Springboard
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Sugar Shack
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The Drum Major
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The Graduate by Ernie Barnes The Maestro by Ernie Barnes The Tunesmith by Ernie Barnes Uptown Downtown by Ernie Barnes
The Graduate
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The Maestro
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The Tunesmith
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Uptown, Downtown
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Victory in Overtime by Ernie Barnes Window Wishing by Ernie Barnes
Victory in Overtime
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Window Wishing
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